Hemp materials serve as safe, environmentally friendly alternative to asbestos products

As we become increasingly environmentally conscious, we are forced to ask the question, is there anything hemp can;t do? Through its many incarnations, hemp has now become a green construction option. Dozens of hemp homes have already been built in Europe over the last two decades, and they are starting to cross the pond, with a hemp walled home recently built in Asheville, North Carolina.

Peter Ashley, director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control, explains that hemp has a place on the construction market because “There is a growing interest in less toxic building materials.”

In fact, a recent study of a Seattle public housing complex reported that resident health improved after their homes got a green makeover. The many unhealthy living spaces that exist may be symptomatic of the fact that the US government historically hasn;t taken an interest in studying chemicals found in the home until problems begin to arise. Such has been the case with lead, arsenic, formaldehyde and asbestos, a toxic mineral known to cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the lining of the chest and abdomen.

Thus far, green construction has focused mostly on the health of the environment and not specifically on the health of the residents, but it;s likely that what benefits one will benefit the other. Although asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral, its use has been banned in construction, as its devastating health effects have long been known. Every year, approximately 2000 Americans discover they have contracted mesothelioma because of asbestos exposure, a bleak diagnosis, as even with aggressive mesothelioma treatment, including surgery, chemo and radiation, sufferers rarely live beyond 18 months. Asbestos cancer has no known cure.

Industrial hemp is imported because it cannot be grown legally in the U.S. Yet its use reflects an increasing effort to make American homes both energy-efficient and healthier.